An introductory guide to marine satellite TV

No longer is satellite television reserved for superyachts. Thanks to small and sophisticated marine satellite TV antennas from companies such as Intellian and KVH/TracVision, vessels as small as eight meters in length can access satellite channels.

Satellite domes

Choosing the right satellite system/antenna

Marine satellite TV companies like Intellian, KVH and Raymarine have taken marine satellite TV, once featuring large domes and exclusively found on superyachts, and made it practical for small boat owners. Satellite TV has become a lot more compact and affordable, with antennas coming in a range of sizes. In order to choose a system, you first need to ask yourself a few questions such as, where will you be boating? What size antenna is right for your boat?

Where will you be using the marine satellite TV?

Where you will be travelling has a lot to do with which antenna is needed. Satellite TV broadcast spot beams are aimed at landmasses where the bulk of subscribers can be found, so the strength of their signals decreases as you travel away from land. This means the further offshore you go, the larger the antenna needed.

Most sat comm companies will tell you what antenna size is needed, so take this opportunity to find out as much about the product to see if it’s the right fit for your vessel. Furthermore, ask the service provider or visit their website to determine what programming is available and if it’s what you want.

Marine satellite domes

Satellite TV across continents

Can the satellite TV antenna be used in different regions? Well, the satellite TV models for the US and Europe may appear to be identical physically, but there are distinct differences in hardware inside the antenna. The Low Noise Block (LNB) used to convert the satellite signal into an IF signal is specific to the geographical location - and this applies to all brands of satellite TV antennas.

It is impossible to receive USA satellite signals using the European version and vice versa. If you’ve installed a region specific system and your vessel is cruising into another territory, the system will become inoperative and you will need to have the LNB replaced by an authorised service dealer.

If you are going to travel to different geographical regions it is really worth considering a worldview antenna that has a global LNB installed. However this will, of course, affect the cost.

Want more than one TV on your boat?

One satellite antenna can be connected to multiple TVs. If each screen has its own satellite “set-top” box you can watch different channels on each TV. However, if you only have one satellite set-top box, all of the TVs will show the same channel.

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